Sunday, August 24, 2014

Peace in Europe is obviously in the hands of the ordinary people!
 I can not believe what is happening in Europe once again.

It is almost a year since Ukraine entered a very turbulent and critical stage in its history. From protests and demonstrations, to edging very closely to a civil war.

The country is in a critical stage, that could destabilize the whole region, Europe's relationship with Russia and the continent itself.
The European and Russian elites have been engaging in a ridiculous tug-of-war over the country. The two regions are close partners and rely on each other, never mind the close historic ties that binds them. Russia was always an integral part of Europe and its history. But ever since the cold war, both sides are wary and critical of each other.

Europe's suffocatingly close alliance with America and the megalomania of the Russian leadership, with the vision of restoring Russia's former"glory" and pride, is tearing Ukraine apart. It is no secret that both sides have interests in the region and they are trying to promote them. But the Ukrainian people must have the final say themselves, about the future of their country.

Personally I do not see why the Western powers are still feuding with Russia and vice versa. Europe, America and Russia would be better off as close partners, but the remnants of the cold war are still a thorn in their potential deeper partnership.

The European elites imposed sanctions on Russia, by ending its exports of oil equipment, placing an embargo on Russia's arms trade and cutting off Russian bank finance, as well as placing sanctions on individual Russian elites. Russia in return, placed a ban on EU fruit, food and agricultural products.

This is the silliest trade war there has been for a while. By placing sanctions on each other, the two sides are not only harming the other's economy, but also their own. They are behaving like children that are angry with each other and so they are destroying whatever good they have built together!

Can these elites be trusted? No! In the past it was the same attitude of Europe's political elites that led to two world wars that killed millions of Europeans. Interestingly enough, this summer we commemorated the 100 years since the beginning of the First World War, in which millions of young European perished.

Are we people, going to allow them to do the same on European soil once more? Will hundreds or thousands of young Ukrainians, Russians and other Europeans have to die, over the future of Ukraine? A country that should after all decide its future on its own, by all democratic means.

I do not understand why the Russians are so afraid of "losing" Ukraine. The Russian minority in the eastern part of the country, will always remain ethnic Russian, with the only difference that they will be also EU citizens if the country joins the EU.

Russia will have a direct influence and a say in the EU, if MEPs and other politicians from the Russian speaking regions of the expanded EU, enter the Brussels institutions. Provided of course that the Russian minority is treated with respect by the Ukrainian and European authorities.

But the attitude of Europe is also wrong towards Russia and Ukraine. The American influence in their relations is obvious, and it is not helping. The only way to encourage the integration of the few remaining nations in the eastern region of Europe to join the EU, is what Europe does best: trade!

We should be engaging with trade and bilateral agreements, with all former USSR democracies. If Europe offer "funds" in order to gain control over these nations, it then corrupts these countries. We give money in one pro-democracy party, that in the end becomes addicted to foreign money and uses all means to stay in power, by keep twisting the arm of their donors for more funds, in exchange for more democratic reforms and keeping the status quo.

These money are being misused and they corrupt the "democratic" elites which eventually they become gangrenous both to the country and the donors. It would be better to engage with them with trade, and bit by bit via investments and continuous cooperation, change will come naturally, as well as their entry in the European institutions. 

It will be the people themselves who will initiate it, after seeing how we in the rest of Europe live, come in contact with our values and way of thinking, once they come over here to work, study or do business. And vice versa, when European tradesmen go over there to start businesses and invest in their countries, they can become beacons of European values.

The exact same attitude Europe must have towards Russia. The more we criticize the country for the bad decisions and practices that their corrupt elite is doing, the more we help nationalism rise among the population and support these elites, as they are viewing them as heroes and protectors of their nation and values. This is going nowhere and Russia should become a key ally of Europe and even America itself.

In other words, the wrong attitude and grave mistakes of the Russian and European elites, could cost the lives in a great number of Europeans once again (I include the potential Russian victims, as they are Europeans after all). We should not allow them to bring disaster in our continent again. 

The Ukrainian people have nothing to separate with the Russians, the Russian with the Europeans and so on. We are all striving for a better future and living standards, our goals and interests are in fact uniting us. If our elites want to play games with our welfare, over power, land and dominance over another then they are not representing our interests and we should show them the way out! 

If there is any chance for peace in Europe, it is obvious that is lies in the hands of the ordinary Europeans, Ukrainians and Russians. Do not fall for your government's propaganda, for blinded nationalism and the promise that your interests lie in a nation state, a national government or on constant power games between your nation's and other neighboring ones.

Refuse to be part of your political elite's mistakes and wrong doings, or it will be you and your children that will pay the price once again.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Europe: a place of peculiar judicial systems and leadership!
This week, three incidents that took place in our lovely continent had me absolutely outraged! The first one comes from my native country, Greece. A country that for the past six years of recession, looks more like a theater of peculiarities and a freak show.

I can never understand under which circumstances, someone who shoots at his employees for rightfully asking their hard earned salaries, walks free! I am talking about the incident in Manolada in Southern Greece, where an strawberry farm owner and his cronies, opened fire to 28 migrant Bangladeshi workers seeking simply to be paid.

The incident happened last April, but the verdict was announced today. The owner, who had been accused of human trafficking and one other had the charges against them dropped. Two others were handed prison sentences of 14 years the most, but were also freed pending appeal. (The Daily Star)

It is known that there is a huge problem of corruption, especially in the police, judicial and state institutions in Greece, but that incident is absolutely unacceptable for an EU member state. These practices were more common in the "Wild, Wild West", and they belong to that time and place.

The immigrant workers in Greece and in every other European country, form the backbone of its economy. They do the work that nobody else wants to do, cheaper and often better. They pay higher taxes and have to also keep applying and paying for a visa, just to stay in the country.

To treat such people like dogs, brings disgrace on the whole local community of Manolada, but also on Greece itself. I myself am outraged and appalled by the very incident, let alone today's verdict. How can the country attract workers that it needs now, when we are showing to the world that we actually want slaves to work without pay. And that we are going to shoot at them if they ask for money and get away with it.

Such practices belong to another era, where slavery was legal, not in Europe of 2014. The judicial system of Greece and the people responsible for such decision must come immediately under scrutiny, if necessary by a European or international judicial body.

No one can treat immigrants, human beings above all like this and get away with it. The Greek government must act on it immediately and see to the punishment of such businessmen, or itself must be accused of racism and fascism. The EU must investigate and act accordingly.
Speaking about far right elements in governments throughout Europe, the second peculiarity in the European continent came from another EU state, Hungary.

We are used lately of the Hungarian Prime Minister, Mr. Viktor Orban's controversial policies and speeches. But things are getting really serious, after his latest speech on July 26th, at a retreat of ethnic Hungarian leaders in Baile Tusnad in Romania.

Mr. Orban stated that he wants to abandon liberal democracy in favor of an “illiberal state,” citing Russia and Turkey as examples. Together with China, he listen the above nations as "successful," while stressing that the global financial crisis in 2008 showed that “liberal democratic states can’t remain globally competitive”. (Bloomberg)

While I am not fond of the way that economic "liberalism" has developed over the recent years and what it represents nowadays, Mr. Orban's aspirations will result in more troubles for his country. For a European leader to be inspired by Russia and Mr. Putin, a country that sees a surge of homophobia and xenophobia, while it demonstrates expansionist agenda, it is a worrying development.

Especially when Mr. Orban is very keen in his country's relationship with Hungarian minorities in other European, even EU states. Not to mention that in the case of Turkey, which we witness a barrage of freedom of speech violations recently, for any politician to  be "inspired" by them is simply laughable.

The Hungarian people must realize where Mr. Orban's "vision" will lead their country and decide more wisely during the next elections. If in any doubt, just check the human rights, freedom of speech and personal development records of Mr. Orban's three role model countries.

Yes economic neo-liberalism may be troublesome the way it developed and it may have also caused lots of problems for the average European household and middle class. But going towards the other extreme is not the solution either. You can not have a country that is nationalist and conservative, in an international organization that promotes integration of European economies, societies and states. 

The solution to Hungary's and in fact most of the European nations' woes, would be actually less state intervention and more European governance, directly elected by the European people collectively. Our national governments are in most cases the ones responsible for Europe's economic collapse, though the EU as an institution is not blame free.

Yet if we accuse the EU Commission as the root of all bad policies adopted by the EU, well think who appoints these men and women in these positions in the first place; our national governments! 

Finally, speaking about Turkey as an "inspiration." On the 28th of July there was the third case of peculiarity in Europe, with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç stating that women should not laugh out loud in public, complaining about “moral corruption” in Turkey. (Hurriyet Daily News) Seriously as if some politicians are trying hard to damage their political career.

Thank God that the Turkish ladies gave him a proper answer, flooding the country's social media with pictures of themselves laughing! I am not sure what got into Mr. Arınç's mind but whatever it was, it was silly and utterly misogynist or sexist! Not appropriate for a Deputy Prime Minister, in a country that wants to join the EU one day. Time for the Turkish people to rethink about their leadership too perhaps.